Prices for road transport are slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels, but there is still a lot less capacity available. These are the key findings based on a recent evaluation of the Transport Market Monitor (TMM).

“We are seeing further normalization in the European market for road transport. Prices are back at last year’s levels and transport capacities have clearly recovered from the fluctuations resulting from the pandemic outbreak last spring. The impact of Brexit is also less significant than before,” states Nikolay Pargov, Executive Director Freight Procurement & Audit at Transporeon.

The Transport Market Monitor shows that road transport prices rose very slightly, by 0.7%, in March this year compared to the previous month. The index now stands at 98.6 points. Prices are down compared to March 2020, albeit by just 0.3%. However, there is still significantly less transportation capacity available today than a year ago; the capacity index fell by 19.7% compared to March 2020.

Impact of Brexit on road transport

In March 2021, road transport capacity from France to the United Kingdom increased by 7.8% compared to the previous month, and also by 7.8% compared to March 2020. Due to Brexit, transport capacity on this route reached its lowest point in two years in December 2020, but it has been increasing again since the beginning of this year.

Prices on the corridor between France and the UK reached a two-year high in December 2020 due to the uncertainties surrounding Brexit. However, they have been falling continuously since the beginning of 2021 and stood at 119.8 points in March, which is a 6.5% drop from the previous month. Even so, prices are still up 21.2% compared to March 2020.

Price stability in automotive sector

In the European automotive sector, transport capacity decreased by 8% in March compared to February this year. Prices have remained relatively stable since the beginning of 2021. Meanwhile, in the chemical and life sciences sector, road transport capacity has shown little movement since the start of the year, unlike transportation capacity in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector which has increased significantly.

The Transport Market Monitor is a service provided by Transporeon. The analysis is based on road transport data for more than 1.8 million spot market freight loads per year.

road transport

A deal between the UK and the EU was reached on Christmas Eve last year. What does this mean for organizations that do business with the country?
By Steve Lavelle, Managing Partner, London, UK NGS Global.

Just like every other country around the world, the UK had a traumatic 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the severe economic disruption caused by multiple lockdowns and other measures adopted to address the crisis. Two other economic factors also had massive impacts on the UK economy last year: Brexit (which finally happened in January) and the associated European Union trade deal (which came into effect in December).

As we move into 2021, with the likelihood of COVID- related social and economic restrictions easing by mid-year, this may be a good time to assess the state of the UK, from the perspective of international companies outside of the country who have UK operations there, or are planning at some future point to do business in the sixth largest global economy. This piece does not aim to promote UK plc, but to provide a balanced illustration of the “state of the nation”, informed by the views of people who are currently conducting business or enabling trade with the UK.

Brexit is the New Reality
So after 47 years as part of the European Union, the UK is no longer officially a member. However, that does not mean that the UK is not still integrated at multiple levels with the remaining 27 member states. While there are areas where a clean cut has been made, for example membership of some significant scientific/research bodies and the supremacy of the European Court of Justice over the UK judicial system, there are many more areas where nothing significant has changed (yet). A major example is most EU legislation, which has simply been “copied and pasted” into UK legislation, with some important changes in areas such as immigration.

There is also the huge cultural, social and economic legacy of European unification, built up over decades since the end of the Second World War of which the formation of the EU was a major, but by far not the only manifestation.

Hence it is not accurate to now think of the UK as an isolated nation state with no far-reaching interactions with mainland Europe across multiple dimensions; economic, commercial, legal, social, environmental, political and cultural.

Ramifications for Companies

So what does this mean for companies around the world, from SMEs to multinational enterprises, in how they do business with the UK going forward? What has changed? What are the risks and opportunities? Is the UK still a good hub for European/EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) headquarters, or should companies expanding into EMEA base themselves on mainland Europe? Do the new rules on immigration mean international companies can’t base their people in the UK or hire there from around the world? And how is the UK economy performing, and what are the mid to long-term expectations?

While the UK was an EU member, companies could freely buy and sell goods and services across borders with minimum friction and no taxes or volume limits. While the regulations around services remain mostly unchanged (though not in some sectors, such as financial services), there are now many rules, standards and some different taxes in place for the physical movement of goods. Another key principle of the EU is the free, unrestricted movement of labor, but UK nationals now need a visa to stay in EU countries more than 90 days in 180. EU nationals planning to work in the UK will also need to apply for a visa, the model for which appears to be based on the Australian points system (that’s a high-level summary – in reality the rules are complex).

UK vs EU Law
Mark Webber is US Managing Partner at Fieldfisher, a European law firm headquartered in the UK. “The majority of the European law was effectively just grafted into United Kingdom law when the UK Parliament   passed what is known as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. Something that was law because it was European law on the 30th December 2020 was UK law on the 1st of January 2021 because of this Withdrawal Act. They haven’t had time to change it. That will take time and that divergence will become clear, and I’m sure a lot of the time it will become slightly more permissive and slightly more business friendly. If anything, we might be growing into a position where the UK is more attractive for multinational companies expanding into Europe through a UK base.”

Jeff Loebbaka is Chief Commercial Officer of AMP Robotics, a Silicon Valley funded venture capital backed company which is expanding rapidly, just having used NGS Global’s services to hire its first executive outside of the US, the General Manager EMEA. From a shortlist of candidates based in several European locations, he hired a UK national, not only because the best candidate was in the UK, but also considering a number of other functions.

For a company like AMP Robotics, there are clearly still implications of Brexit that are not yet apparent – hardware, software and service elements of the company’s offering involve complexity about how they will do business in the UK and Europe, as well as the commercial issues of legal entities, employment contracts, taxable entities and other financial structures.

“I discussed Brexit with my legal, finance and HR teams, and there are clearly areas we still need to learn about,” explained Mr Loebbaka. “But the key thing is that while we know Brexit will affect us, the UK remains important – we know we are going to have people and business there, and some kind of entity. In my experience, getting started and doing business there is relatively straightforward. The other thing that is always in the back of my mind that I don’t think Brexit changes is the relative friendliness in terms of UK labor laws. I have experience in that, and I have a little bit of scar tissue from what I’ve done previously in France and Italy versus the UK.”

Are MNC’s Still Investing in the UK?
Based in California, Jo Bates, Director in the Corporate Team at Fieldfisher, says that multi-national corporations (MNC’s) are still investing in the UK. “I think prior to Brexit it was the obvious answer as a European headquarters for many companies, but now they’re a little bit more cautious. They’re asking more questions, but ultimately there are a lot of companies still choosing the UK. And that’s for obvious things like the language, the culture and the common-law legal system, the ease of doing business there.”

Ms Bates added that “Brexit is just causing a little bit of uncertainty, and we still don’t understand its full impact. The UK government itself has said that it’s going to take up to ten years to fully understand the impact of Brexit. So companies aren’t going to wait ten years for investment decisions. Life is continuing and companies still like the look of the UK, but they’re asking more questions before they make their decision.“

Mike Sables is Office Managing Partner at RSM, the sixth largest business advisory and accountancy firm globally, which supports many international businesses scaling in the UK. “Obtaining visas and setting up ex-pat packages in the UK can be a costly and time-consuming exercise without the right approach. There are multiple types of visa, depending on whether the individual is the sole or first employee in the UK, length of stay and whether he/she will move before the legal entity is set up. Plus, if the individual will be doing a pan-European role, you need to be mindful of visa requirements in other European countries. There are accounting, tax and social security implications for different types of visa, and you need to pay attention to how long this will all take. Overall, the process is far from frictionless.”

UK Economic Expectations
So how is the UK economy performing? Simon Hart is International and Knowledge Management Partner at RSM. “We are expecting something like 4% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in the UK in 2021, with strong second half growth moving into 2022, bolstered significantly by pent-up consumer demand. Understandably, the average UK consumer has been deferring purchasing and investment decisions during 2020 and at some point that pent-up demand is going to have to be released, so we think a consumer-led recovery is likely.

“The UK government has done a pretty robust job in terms of monetary and fiscal stimulation to support the economy. Particularly with regards to the job protection scheme, the furloughing, the bounce-back loans – something like 20% of our GDP has been directed to fiscal support.  And then you’ve got monetary aid from the Bank of England with interest rate cuts and asset purchasing. I think that’s been in the region of something like £450 billion (US$628 billion) a month in asset purchases.”

Mr. Hart says that different sectors within the economy are facing different challenges. “We are all well aware of the challenges that the high street retail sector is facing at the moment. Those that have got a supply chain and an IT ecosystem that can align itself with a logistics arm to online transformation, next-day delivery, etc., are probably the ones that are reimagining themselves effectively for the future, unlike those heavily committed to ‘bricks and mortar’. The tech industry is less affected.”

Mr. Sables added that some of the new Budget measures recently announced were a throwback to the past. “Rewind the clock ten years and we had a Corporation Tax rate in the mid-20s, a 3-year loss carry back regime, and a small companies rate of tax. The Chancellor resurrected all these policy areas in his March 2021 budget. He also added additional relief for corporate investment, and signaled a consultation on R&D which is likely to be focused on keeping the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”

Characteristics of the UK as an Investment Destination
Matthew Hurn OBE is a 30-year finance veteran who’s lived in the Middle East for the last 13 years. He’s currently the Chief Financial Officer of the Disruptive Investment Platform of Mubadala Investment Company, the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund with total assets under management of over £165 billion (US$230 billion), and a major global investor. “I think the UK actually presents a very interesting market now – a lot of the uncertainty is gone. We now know the outcome of Brexit and we are through that prolonged period of uncertainty from an investor perspective. I also think you now have stability in the government – you have confidence that the majority that the current government has is likely to be there for a period.

“So you can start making some longer-term investment initiatives. The UK has one of the leading global Life Sciences industries in the corridor between Cambridge, Oxford and London. Incredibly strong. We also think some of the infrastructure ideas given the levelling-up agenda that has been announced as part of the UK also presents some fascinating opportunities. You have the HS2 high speed rail network going through the Midlands. You have the Northern Powerhouse and what that means in attracting a different sort of investment – the UK is not just London.”

Mr. Hurn believes that the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 is a key decision that will encourage considerable additional investment in renewables and green energy. He also predicts the UK to remain strong in such areas as software as a service, artificial intelligence, future mobility and for London to maintain its leadership as the Fintech capital of the world.

Added to this is recent research showing London is still the most desirable city in the world to work in, despite Brexit and COVID. The Boston Consulting Group study, which gathered the views of 209,000 participants in 190 countries in early 2021, found that London has retained its title as the place where people would most like to work, a position it has held for the past eight years.

And the impact of the EU Trade Deal? This is the post-Brexit trade agreement that allows free trade between the UK and the EU in goods and limited mutual market access in services, as well as a number of cooperation mechanisms in a variety of areas. Its high-level principles are no tariffs or quotas on trade (but customs duties and taxes may still apply) and equality of services providers (but not free market access). For the detail, see the 1,246 page document…

What about COVID?
Within the context of COVID, Mr. Hurn believes every country will need to press a recovery reset button for their economies, and this could provide new opportunities for the UK. “A lot of countries are now assessing what they need to do to kick start growth, and I think there’s going to be competitive demand for capital.

“Post-COVID, the UK’s sweet spot of opportunity could be inward investment, despite this likely being a very competitive landscape globally. It could be in the form of expansion capital to bring intellectual property, patents or technology to parts of the world that desperately need it. Now the UK has created the Office of Investment inside No.10 Downing Street, and that unified front is really going to help boost international trade.”

Simon Hart of RSM agrees. “The pandemic is actually giving an opportunity for businesses to bed down any changes they need to make as a result of the trade agreement and what is in or out of the trade deal. So it’s kind of happening behind the scenes. I don’t think the pandemic will end and therefore trade issues take over. I think solutions will happen in parallel.

“The biggest opportunity is to get a trade deal with the US sorted out as quickly as possible. The US is re-engaging with the world, focusing on China and Japan for the TransPacific Partnership, the EU, as well as the UK and others. So the UK is in a queue. I think the fastest the US has ever completed a trade deal from start to finish was with Australia and it took something like 22 months. The sticking points are going to be access for US food and agricultural goods and services, as well as sanitary and phytosanitary elements, such as the animal and food regime, healthcare and pharmaceuticals.”

“As many will have experienced, clarity of the impact of Brexit, particularly within the backdrop of a global pandemic, has only become really apparent at the last hour,” explained Tim Paddison, UK Managing Director of Hoffmann Group, which sells German-manufactured machine tools and parts. “Those businesses that developed ‘worst case’ scenario planning probably found themselves in the best position coming into 2021. The big unknown for us was the impact at borders and how logistics providers would fare post-Brexit. While the situation is now improving, the unpreparedness of carriers has been the pain point, along with the impact of the pandemic in mainland Europe. More clarity earlier on would have really helped us.”


Three major and inter-twined factors have had a significant impact on the UK economy in the last year: the impact of COVID and the lockdowns, Brexit and the EU trade deal.

There are plenty of pain-points,  areas where the UK could have done things better and learning points for the future. There are many challenges ahead, including some not expanded on in this article, such as high levels of government debt and the risk to the economy of future interest rate rises. But even the most skeptical observer would have to acknowledge the resilience of the UK as a great place for international business and its continued competitiveness in the global economy.

Steve Lavelle is the Managing Partner of NGS Global’s UK team, based in the company’s London office. He is a highly experienced executive search professional, with a track record of more than 25 years recruiting VP, CxO and Director level roles. Mr. Lavelle has led multiple practices, including Software/SaaS, Cleantech, Finance/CFO, Cyber and early stage US-based companies growing in Europe and has led teams successfully executing over a thousand searches across tech-hubs in the UK, mainland Europe, Middle East and Africa.

On Tuesday, the 20th of April at 14:00 CEST, our Chief Analyst Tom Bundgaard will host a free webinar on current and coming plastics price developments.


This free 1-hour webinar will provide insights into the current and future short-term price developments in select types of plastics.

Kairos Commodities provides subscribers with analysis and price forecasts for ABS, PET, PE, PP, PS and Rubber. The webinar will focus on ABS and provide a high level overview of the expected price developments during the rest of 2021, whilst also providing insights into the developments of the price of other plastic types.

The webinar is scheduled to last just short of an hour, giving enough time to provide an overview of key developments and introduce participants to Kairos Commodities format of analysis, but without going too deep into the finer details.


Tom Bundgaard is the Chief Analyst at Kairos Commodities, in charge of Commodity Price analysis and forecasting. The practical background is 13 years as Purchasing Manager, buying all kinds of commodities. The theoretical background is a progression of specialization: Academy Economist, a 10-years Mentor-process in Technical Analysis, a MSTA degree from Society of Technical Analysts in London and finally a Master of Financial Technical Analysis from the US.

Ever Given, the massive container ship has given some sleepless nights to the already tired and exhausted shipping stakeholders and the container fiasco affecting global trade in the last year or so.

The blockage has forced container vessels to weigh alternative routing and thus, face massive additional costs and transit times in the effort to voyage around Africa.

Already 2 LNG tankers loaded in the US bound for Asia already appeared to have changed their course in the mid-Atlantic because of the blockage, and thus, are heading around Africa to avoid chartering the course of Suez in Egypt. Further, APMM A/S and Hapag-Lloyd AG have already started contemplating sending ships around the same route as well. In addition, customers of Torm A/S, a Danish company which owns tankers, have already started asking about the cost of diversions which would have to borne.

These are not the best of news or the best of times for an already pandemic struck global shipping trade. The blockage of the canal will definitely send ripple effects across the global maritime trade. We must not forget that the vessels which may be affected are carrying everything from finished goods to energy and commodity items.

The article mentioned and I quote –

““Regarding the possible alternatives, we are looking at all of them, including the Cape of Good Hope but also many others, for example air solutions for critical and time-sensitive cargo,” Maersk said in a statement. “No concrete decision has been taken yet. It will depend on how long the Suez Canal remains impassable.””

This is not all. This bottleneck created by Ever Given threatens to unearth a scenario of even higher costs for the shipping carriers, for importers, and ultimately, for the consumers. A definite cause of concern in terms of an economic impact possible of the incident will be the effects on supplies for European companies including car companies to retailers depending on flow of Asian Imports.

The article further mentioned and I quote –

““Even if the situation is resolved within the next 48 hours, port congestion and further delays to an already constrained supply chain is inevitable,” said Daniel Harlid, a Moody’s analyst. That’s bad because European manufacturers including automakers don’t stockpile parts, he said, adding that freight rates “will also most likely increase or at least stop decreasing from their currently very high levels,” he said.”

Additionally, the German shipping carrier Hapag-Lloyd has gone on record to state that it is closely following the implication on the services. They say and I quote – “ We are presently looking into possible vessel diversions around Cape of Good Hope.”

The article also mentioned and I quote –

“For the container lines that haul about 80% of global merchandise trade, a prolonged bottleneck between Europe and Asia risks throwing off ship schedules set months in advance so importers can plan their purchases, manage inventories and keep store shelves stocked or production lines running.”

For every incremental day container carriers have to wait adds more salt to the wounds. Vessels arriving days beyond their scheduled arrivals means they can’t be unloaded and reloaded as per schedule on the return legs of their scheduled sailings. This would mean carriers would/may have to cancel trips; thus, capacities may be strained further and freight rates pushed further.

Let us look at some numbers in perspective. The article mentioned and I quote –

“Rerouting around South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope would add 6,000 miles to the journey and something like $300,000 in fuel costs for a supertanker delivering Middle East oil to Europe.”

Shipbrokers further report that oil traders have started hiring tankers for “just-in-case” options in order for sailing around Africa if the blockage persists.

The article further mentioned and I quote –

“Rates to charter oil tankers in some regions have climbed higher since the blockage first appeared. Suezmax vessels, which typically haul 1 million barrels through the canal, are now fetching about $17,000 a day, the most since June 2020. If ships are forced to sail around the southern tip of Africa, that will boost rates as journey times increase.”

Also mentioned in the article and I quote –

“The canal is currently holding up about 2 million barrels a day of oil flows, according to Braemar estimates.”

The congestion has also not spared bulk carriers carrying everything from wheat to iron ore. The queue of bulk vessels is just about 40 ships, according to an analyst at trade group BIMCO.

The Current Situation

As per the latest situation as per an update from Maersk lines as on Mar 28, 2021 –

“The Suez Canal passage continues to be blocked in both directions. Whilst efforts continue to dislodge the container ship operated by Evergreen Marine, numbers show that over 300 ships are now waiting at anchorage to pass through the canal. There is a steady inflow of vessels reaching the canal and the effects of the redirected vessels from global carriers is not yet reflected in the queue. Currently we (Maersk and partners) have three vessels stuck in the canal and 27 vessels waiting to enter the canal, with two more expected to reach the blockage today.”

(as adapted from

Now these incidents are something that companies cannot actually plan for in advance. A definite after effect would be to ensure that companies can actually relook at their inventories going forward. But again, this would surely have an impact on costs for these companies. Higher inventories would mean more costs of storing, holding, and carrying inventories and what about the cost of time. Some items in the inventories may be perishable and may come with an expiry date. They can’t be stored for long but what about fulfilling customer orders. These are some considerations that the importers and exporters would need to rethink and thus, come up with optimum inventory and shipping decisions. Till then, it would be an interesting exercise in addition to the already existing question of making Supply Chains Resilient, as has been put forth by the pandemic already…. 

Road transport capacity fell sharply by 16.4% from November to December 2020, taking the European spot market availability index to 85.9 points. There was also significantly less capacity available on the market than a year before; the capacity index dropped by 16% compared to December 2019. Although transport prices increased by 3.9% between November and December 2020, they still remained 2.7% down on December 2019.

These latest statistics come from an update to the Transport Market Monitor (TMM) by freight exchange platform Transporeon and consultancy Tim Consult, based on data up to and including 7 January 2021.

In particular the corridor between France and the UK, which is feeling the effects of Brexit, has seen rising prices due to the significant decrease in road transport capacity, which reached a two-year low in December at 58.8 index points. This corresponds to a huge drop of 39.4% compared to the previous month. Prices rose sharply over the same period (by 34.8%), peaking at the two-year high of 154.3 index points. Compared to December 2019, transport capacity decreased by 22.1% while prices shot up by 51%.

Both transport capacity and prices for goods shipped from Germany to the UK showed similar trends. Between November and December 2020, transport capacity fell by 29.7% to 85.3 index points – another two-year low. At the same time, prices rose sharply by 41.2% to 153.9 index points, representing another two-year high.

Industry-specific trends

In the European automotive industry, road transport capacity fell by 17.9% from November to December 2020, hitting a two-year low at 72.3 index points. Prices have been rising since May 2020 and peaked at 105.6 index points in December, marking a 1.8% increase from the previous month.

In the chemicals and life sciences sector, the road transport capacity index fell sharply by 14.6% to 96.2 points in December 2020, and in the same month prices in the sector increased by 13.5%.

Transport capacity in the steel industry dropped significantly (by 22.5%) between November and December 2020. This was coupled with a two-year high for prices at 111.2 points. Transport prices have been rising steadily in the steel industry since May 2020, and they increased by 8.7% from November to December 2020 alone.

Impact of Brexit

Oliver Kahrs, Managing Director of Tim Consult, a subsidiary of Transporeon, had predicted that prices would rise and transport capacity would fall towards the end of 2020. “While this may be normal towards the end of the year, it cannot entirely be explained by the Christmas period in December. Transport capacity levels have dropped extraordinarily between the European continent and the UK while prices on this corridor are soaring. Brexit is obviously having an impact. However, in the first quarter of 2021, we expect an overall recovery of transport capacities across Europe,” Kahrs said.

GB Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for EU and Northern Ireland

The new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement was not finalised until Christmas Eve, two months after the original deadline for an agreement. This resulted in only a week to implement new export / import processes with the EU.
Not having clearly defined export / import processes with the EU caused unnecessary documentation issues resulting in long delays at the ports and some vehicles being sent back to the UK. Exporters of food products from Great Britain (GB) were especially impacted due to their Export Health Certificates (EHCs) not being compliant with EU import regulations. Food exporters and their Official Veterinarians complete and issued these certificates in compliance with the directives of the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs.
EHCs are required for exports of live animals or animal products exported from GB to the EU. This ensures the consignment complies with the quality and health standards of the EU. EHCs are signed by an Official Veterinarian following inspection of the consignment and they are commodity and destination specific.
Exporters must apply for an EHC if they are exporting or moving live animals or animal products from GB (England, Scotland and Wales) to or through the following destinations:
• The EU
• Non-EU countries
• Northern Ireland (NI)
Exporters will also need a Transit EHC to transit through an EU country.
On 19 January 2021, the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) published Briefing Note 02/2021 called ‘Guidance updates for certification of POAO exports to the EU and movement to Northern Ireland.’ APHA is an Executive Agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The APHA document provided amendments in relation to the certification of Products of Animal Origin (POAO) for export to the EU or movement to Northern Ireland. Therefore, enabling food exporters to comply with EU import requirements 19 days after Brexit!
The amendments include:
• The agreed method for page numbering.
• The replacement of UK fan stamping by the EU requirement to stamp and sign all pages.
• The stamping and initialling of changes and deletions.
• Permitted paragraphs and sections may be crossed out by applying a ‘Z’ across paragraphs and sections.
• The use of 6-digit Commodity Codes rather than 8 or 10 digits.
• The creation of schedules for multiple commodities.
• There is no requirement to list the time of departure.
• New guidance on composite products.
• More than 5 commodities can be added in a schedule.
If you would like more details, please call +44 (0) 118 932 8447 or email

Research shows that consumers are demanding more from brands, especially in the area of ethics (sustainability).

While brands talk a lot about ‘purpose‘, how many have really got it right? Far too many have fallen into the trap of ethical spin. Seeing ‘sustainability’ as a series of tick boxes, which isn’t the way to win consumers hearts and minds, let alone their loyalty.

A recent survey by Bains & Company of 20 top consumer brands revealed that many were doing little and certainly not enough. Though all would no doubt agree that building ethics into a brand increases sales and value. Both P&G and Unilever have proven that case.

“doing good is good for business.”

Sales of ethically certified food and drink are projected to rise by 17% to reach £9.6bn between 2019-23. It’s not a market fad (like veganism) but a change in consumer buying habits.

83% of UK adults say they have bought food/drink with some sort of ethical certification (with those most likely to buy ethically-certified food/drink are aged over 50, though under 35’s come second).

While 2018/19 saw a focus on environmentalism, especially the Climate Crisis, the pandemic has swung the focus the other way, back to community, people and the stakeholder society.

Brands need to think the Triple Top Line – Purpose/People/Planet and deliver across both. But it’s not that easy for established companies.

There are three key obstacles that prevent large established companies from making ‘sustainability’ part of their brand DNA, according to Bains & Company.

• Delivering consumer value – 50% of consumers don’t want to compromise on what they buy, and 70% won’t pay more.

Research by Mintel reveals that cost is a significant barrier, as seven in ten adults say that eating sustainably/ethically is harder when money is tight.

• Finding affordable solutions – being more sustainable adds cost, or there are no sustainable solution, or a failure to find the right partners. 75% of those surveyed said it would hurt the bottom line.

• Using operating models that thwart their efforts – 70% of companies see sustainability as a trade-off and it’s not embedded in objectives/incentives. The business model is wrong. Big brands need to take a cross-functional approach, embedding sustainability within divisions and business units while linking incentives to sustainability targets

Bain&Co’s recent analysis of more than 13,000 brands shows that integrating sustainable values into a brand earn twice the revenue growth, three times the customer loyalty and four times the household penetration growth of average brands.

“Doing good is good for business” (how many times have I said that?).

about 90% of incumbent brands do not embed sustainability frequently in their communications.

Even when brands do integrated sustainable ethical values into their offering, they do a poor job communicating it. That I agree totally on. By contrast, they should put far more weight behind their comms,

“The research found that brands must devote a higher share of voice to sustainability―in both the volume and percentage of their messages―if they want to change consumer perception.” [Bains & Co]

Although I feel that some of Bain’s views are observational, and their blanket use of ‘sustainability’ leaves many areas ignored, I think they have highlighted three very key barriers within businesses in an area that can be very emotional.


Some interesting stats, data sources: Bains&Co, KPMG, CONNECT2 Community Survey 2020, Global Web Index, Mintel, Google.


66% of consumers say brands that a public promise to be more ethical are more trusted.  Up to 56% of UK adults say they are loyal to brands whose ethics align with their own.

40% want to see more support for local communities from major retailers. 76% of consumer would prefer to buy from a brand that supports local communities. Yet 95% of consumer think brands don’t engage communities very well, if at all.

Up to 43% have stopped buying products from companies that have acted unethically, especially around abuse and exploitation of people. Just look at how the Boohoo sweatshop scandal halved their share price.

71% of consumers say that “putting profit before people will lose trust in that brand forever.”

41% of consumers are also concerned about how companies treat their staff, both emotionally and financially.


 45% of consumers are concerned about animal welfare, so seek out labels and certification. 66% buy FREE-RANGE with Fairtrade falling to second place with 53%, Red Tractor 49%, Rainforest Alliance 32% and organics 30%.


 82% claim that when buying products, sustainable packaging is important. 53% say they have reduced their use of single-use plastic. 60% of shoppers say they would be happy to use their own containers/bags in supermarkets.

83% believe that retailers should be doing more to help reduce packaging waste. But the big dilemma has been with Covid-19, consumers also want to buy produce that are wrapped and not been handled by other customers.

the confused consumer:

Consumers’ doubts over whether their buying choices make a difference to the environment present a significant barrier, likely causing apathy and inertia. Companies must therefore make the benefits of buying ethical food/drink to the environment, and to wider society as a result, more tangible to shoppers.”

the way forward…

Overall, brands need to do more and step up their commitment to ethics if they want to win consumers hearts and minds and their money. This may require a change in how the business works but also in how they communicate.

Ethical marketing is a very different methodology from traditional advertising, PR and social media. It focuses more on ‘pull’ than ‘push’ thinking. So it’s not surprising traditional agencies get lost and can easily under up creating greenwash ads.

Within the silos of brands, there also needs to be better communications between marketing and CSR. Many do not work harmoniously together, if at all. This is being helped by some brands creating a new role of CSMO (Chief Sustainability Marketing Officer) to bridge the gap.

Having values and a purpose is not just about marketing or PR spin, it’s about showing the consumer that they are real values the company lives by.

In a changing world, established brands can not sit back and assume customers will keep coming, far from it, many insurgent brands are stealing customers away on mass.

Insurgent brands grow 186X the average rate of their product categories. Established brands that use ethics to reignite their relevance, can see five to six times-higher growth rates.

If the business thinking is not about progress, and connecting better with consumers, then it has to at least to be about survival.

It’s not rocket science, but do it right and it could rocket your sales.


LINK to Bains & Co report: CLICK HERE


Chris Arnold is a Dr of Business, is a specialist in ethical marketing and co-founder of CONNECT 2 (the UK’s leading business to community engagement marketing agency).

A former director of Saatchi & Saatchi, he is also founder of ethical brand marketing agency Creative Orchestra and the business innovation consultancy, The Garage Innovation Lab.

He is author of Ethical Marketing & The New Consumer (published by Wileys), Why Women Shop on Venus and Men Shop on Mars, and FLIP – Unthink Everything You Know (pub 2021). He is currently writing Why Doing Good is Good Business (aka Brands That Actually Give a F***) in association with a leading University.

He has written the Brand Republic blog on ethics for over a decade as well writing for Third Sector magazine, FT, Marketing, Campaign, Adage, Brand Strategy, Creative Review, Impact and numerous publications. He is also a contributor to TV’s Food Unwrapped.

Chris is founder of the UK’s biggest community arts festival, a director of London Community Arts CIC, and is involved with numerous community groups and projects.

He lecturers and advises the MA Advertising course at Bournemouth and has lectured at many universities, including The University of Creative Arts, Colorado State University, Hong Kong University and Chester University.

To feedback email:

m: 07778 056686 (no sales calls).

We have been developing contingency plans to ensure our customers’ products are delivered correctly after 1 January 2021. Significant changes will occur once the UK has left the EU. All UK businesses will be required to provide Customs documentation for products exported to, or imported from the EU, even with the ‘EU Deal’ on Brexit.
ICS, as part of our customer services, will be supporting companies with the necessary Customs documentation to comply with the new regulations.
Northern Ireland
Products moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will need to comply with the Northern Ireland protocol agreed in October 2019. Products crossing the Irish Sea will need to demonstrate compliance with the new measures. This means that new Customs and regulatory paperwork, checks and processes will be required on goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain from 1 January 2021.
ICS has solutions in place to move products between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or to bring products into Northern Ireland from outside the UK.
Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
The movement of products between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland should not require any new Customs declarations, paperwork, duty tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin.
If you would like more details, please call +44 (0) 118 932 8447 or email

On the 28th of September FREE ONLINE meeting with the producer of organic products will be held via ZOOM!
Products of “Vanik Organic” company are grown in clean areas of Ukraine, without adding any chemical components & fertilizers in the process. The company produces such goods: amaranth, buckwheat, chickpeas, corn, flax seeds, lentils, peas, rye, spelt, sunflower, soy, wheat, honey, organic sunflower oil.
The quality of products is approved with GMP+ and UA-BIO-108.
Follow the link and fill the registration form. Our managers will contact you and provide with detailed information about the meeting: